13 August 2017

Team Commie Bar at the 24hour Never Summer Adventure Race

24 h Never Summer Adventure Race
Team Commie Bar - Summit Adventure Racing
2-person coed Chrissy Nacos and Jon Gamm
Distances from race organization: ~80 mi bike with 9150' elev gain, ~15 mi trek with ~3000' elev gain, 11 mi packraft class II-IV
All CPs, 5 OPs (about 5th overall)

The race headquarters were out of Granby Ranch near Winter Park.  We got there Friday evening and checked-in, got maps and grabbed a bite to eat.  The race briefing went from 8-9 pm after which we went to our condo for the night to plot our course and organize gear and food.  Bedtime wasn't until after 1am by the time we had everything marked and routed.

Race start was 9am on the top of Granby ski area.  The RD Katie has organized for team and group pictures overlooking the valley right before the start.  And then we were off with a mountain bike orienteer leg all around Granby Ranch ski area.  There had been a downpour the night before so the trails were slippery with some mud and major humidity for a Coloradoan.  We snagged all 5 CPs and all 4 OPs before finishing the bike at Devil's Thumb Ranch TA.  Great singletrack leg!  We maintained a strong pace and made it to the TA around 12:30pm with 9 points in the bag.

The next leg was a trek around Devil's Thumb Ranch and surrounding mountains for 2 CPs and 5 OPs.  Having raced Never Summer last year and knowing RD Katie's style, this race was more about strategy and time management then a timed drag race to the finish.  We also had the constraint that we needed to be on the packraft by a 4:30pm cutoff.  We made the call to get the 2 CPs and 1 OP that was an obvious quicker grab.  Any other OP would likely have taken additional hours.  We got caught in a brief downpour but it didn't affect our pace.

We had to carry the packraft, PFD, and paddles by bike about 30 min to the put-in.  The packraft inflation transition was on the slow side but hey, it was our first time!  The packraft leg turned out to be the worst leg for us, by far.  The water was very low and we often had to get out and walk sections.  Then the Fraser River headed into the gorge and the rapids got serious.  Chrissy was in the front trying to direct Jon on where to go but once the water really starts moving, you go down the only way you can while trying to keep the boat straight.  The "safety guy" was at the wrong rapid and as we passed him we assumed we were through the big stuff.  That was not the case and the crux rapid (class III+/IV) swallowed us up.  We both swam, got slammed into some rocks and almost lost a paddle (but didn't thank goodness).  There were a couple more swims along the way as we managed to wrap the boat repeatedly on shallow rocks.  This leg never seemed to end and we finished at dusk with 3 more CPs and chilled.  We can only imagine what the newbies without whitewater experience were thinking going through that gorge.

Leg 4 - after changing clothes, getting the lights out, and eating a bunch of calories, we were off around 9pm on a 14 mi bike leg.  This ended up a being a longer transition, but it was a much needed reset.  The bike was mostly dirt roads up into BLM lands above Hot Sulphur Springs.  Along the way we saw remnants of teams starting to fall apart.  There was one CP along the way that was incorrectly plotted by the race org.  We hiked around looking for the correct reentrant for about 45 min before a team pointed us to the right one.  This was really the only navigational struggle of the entire race!  We climbed to the bike drop off BLM roads and headed out on the Leg 5 Trek.

This trek had one CP and 6 OPs.  We knew that these OPs were further out and bigger climbs then the upcoming Snow Mountain Ranch section so we just went for the mandatory CP.  This turned out to be a 2 h, ~6 mile time-suck hike on dirt/jeep roads to one of the peaks on Mt Bross.  The climbing started to take a toll as we reached the top around 1am with a handful of other teams.  Another hour back to the bikes while trying to take in calories on the way back.

Back to the bike (many transitions in this race!), one more BLM CP and then we had a longer bike over Cottonwood Pass back to the Granby side.  Two CPs along the way to the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch and 3 more CPs by bike on the YMCA muddy trails.  At this point we are yo-yoing another 2-person coed that was faster on the bike but not as good nav (I think they probably worked 30% more than us over the entire race!).  We saw the sunrise during this leg and started keeping a close eye on the time as every minute past 24 hours (9am) was minus 1 CP, ouch!

There was a short trek to two CPs that were close by and took less than an hour to get.  And then a mad scramble to get on the bikes and head back to the Granby Ranch finish line before 9am.  5 CPs on the way to the finish, 90 minutes until 9am, it was going to be close.  We got 2 CPs at the YMCA trails and were just trying to leave the property as fast as possible when serendipitously we hit CP24 along the way!  We crossed over the highway to the Fraser-Granby trail and realized this was going to take longer than we thought, and with singletrack climbing.  Another CP at the switchback and we are still hanging with the other coed team (however they had missed one CP earlier in the race and we were still full course).  At this point we have one more CP and are minutes to the cutoff.  Jon is taking us on the fastest way to the finish line and somehow we find the final CP!  A long downhill bomb to the finish but it is now 9:04am.  All CPs and 5 OPs but miss first place by 1 minute as the other coed team finished 2 min ahead but missing 1 CP and with 3 OPs.

Overall it was a great race and we ended up about 5th overall.  Not many teams got all of the CPs which tells me we made smart choices on when to skip the OPs during the race and stay full course instead.  Jon and Chrissy worked well together.  We both agreed that the packraft section was the worst part.  Most importantly was that we found another teammate for future races and hopefully PQ 2018!